Monday, September 17, 2012

Settling In

How does time pass so quickly between my posts these days? Tor and I powered through our final days without Lars around, although we got pretty punchy by the end.

And as you recoil, you kick yourself for buying that HD monitor
With DaDa home to restore some sanity to the scene, we set about establishing a routine. I think everyone has been craving a sense of normalcy, and finally we're getting there. (At least until Lars goes to Minneapolis for two weeks in November. But then California will already be familiar to Tor.) On Mondays and Wednesdays, we wave Lars off to the Stanford shuttle bus at 6:45 a.m. Tor and I eat breakfast and hang out all day. This is generally when cleaning, grocery shopping, and laundry get done. In the evenings, we have dinner as a family, then we all play until Tor's 8:00 bedtime, and finally Lars and I have a little time together until we pass out by 10:00 p.m. (Tor has generously started sleeping in until after 5:00 a.m. most mornings, which helps everyone feel a little more civil.)

On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, Lars's schedule is the same, but Tor and I go out the door early too to get him to day care by 7:30. We got him a board book from the library called Teeth Are Not for Biting, and he gets the idea, even if impulse control is not complete yet. (His childcare provider has started giving him a lollipop at the end of a bite-free day, so soon he may not have any teeth left anyhow.)

Victims are the huge kid to Tor's right and the girl in pink
I teach the Tu/Th 9:30-10:45 a.m. freshman composition course, and on Fridays I grade and prep. But Tuesdays are a bear, because I also teach the professional writing course from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m. Since HNU is half an hour away, I stay on campus. This means that Lars has to come home and get Tor from day care, since it closes at 5:45. Here we ran into a logistical problem: we only have one working vehicle.

Problem solved!
To make it work out, Oma and Opa sprung for a used bike trailer, which Lars can use to tote Tor home on Tuesdays. You'll note that for perhaps the first time since he turned 18, Lars is also wearing a helmet. Tor MUST KEEP THINKING HELMETS ARE COOL. He just got a coloring book featuring Elmo on a bike, and he noticed right away that Elmo wore an "'elmet." So if both his role models are doing it...

Shades of Ben-Hur, but with a less bloody finale
When we're home, pastimes include eating (he doesn't like to consume much at once, so we're snacking throughout the day in addition to meals), coloring, playing in our backyard, and going to the three parks within walking or short driving distance. 

Gleanings of the epic local farmers' market

Nightcap and a scribble (yes, MJ, this is your marker)
Embellishing stickers = future scrapbooker
"My backyard has palm trees!"
The ivy will eventually throttle the 70-foot tree in the corner, and it's going to be either our house or the neighbors'

Working that daddy magic


 It's kind of soul-sucking not to have any friends to gather with, though. In Minnesota, Madeline just had her third birthday party. Last year, Tor (and then Lars) got the stomach flu after her party. I knew I missed everyone when I realized yesterday that even as a lifelong emetophobe, I'd be willing to weather a bout of baby barfiness to be among buddies. Until then, I'll just pour an ounce of chocolate leche for y'all.

Oh, and Annia reminded me to share our new address for your records:

6567 Flanders Dr.
Newark, CA 94560

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Catching Up

I know this blog is supposed to be about Tor, but I'm going to talk a little about myself this time too. If you prefer your toddler chatter straight up, I've considerately placed it all below the initial pictures.

Some of you remember that once we knew we were headed to the Stanford area, I lined up a job doing SAT tutoring for Silicon Valley kids with neurotic, usually foreign-born parents. Then Holy Names University (HNU) in Oakland offered me an adjunct faculty gig teaching freshman composition.

The overall compensation for the English course was mediocre, but I accepted because I a) enjoy teaching the material, b) have been trained to do it, and c) want academic work on my resume for this year. The hourly compensation for the tutoring was strikingly high, which sounded great when I envisioned myself working 15 to 20 hours a week, as the HR folks led me to expect I would.

Cut to week one in Newark. I checked out HNU and liked it--it's on a sunny hill; the faculty are friendly; it only has 1,400 students; I get to use the gym; freshman comp is actually stocked with 18-year-old freshmen. The department offered me a second section of the course, but I declined because of the SAT job.

Cut to week two in Newark. After taking the SAT tutoring diagnostic test (read: a photocopy of an old SAT) with the tutoring company, I went in for training and scheduling. It quickly became clear that my employers wanted me to teach one or two courses a week for two hours each, either 4-6 or 6-8 p.m. (to accommodate their high school clientele). With a half-hour commute including a $5 bridge toll, gas rarely below $4/gallon, and child care at least $10/hour, the formerly mind-blowing pay suddenly seemed woefully inadequate.

So I quit. Before I ever taught a class.

Never before have I actively decided to quit a job. My work has often been self-limiting (e.g., linked to a semester-long course), or it's come time to move out of town or leave for the summer and I've left a position as a consequence. I was surprised at the guilt I felt about it. But I composed a scrupulously polite resignation letter and sent it.

I never heard back from them again. So it goes. But I was pretty bummed that I'd turned down the second section of comp (the two birds in the bush, if you will). 

Last Thursday, I taught my first class. The students seem eager and college ready; no problems there. Once I finished, the harried-looking department chair ran into me in the hall and asked whether I had any technical writing experience. Turns out I do; turns out HNU's Professional Writing class way overenrolled and he needed to open another section of it.

The upshot: I'm teaching two courses at HNU this semester and no SAT classes. Not that being contingent labor is something to celebrate wholeheartedly, but I like it there and we're happy have the cash.

Enough about you, you may be saying; what about Lars? He was here to move all our stuff in, and then he went to back-to-back conferences in Boston and New Hampshire for a week. After coming home for two days, he charged off to help his postdoc adviser lead a field course in the Trinity Alps and southwestern Oregon. So he's currently occupying a tent camp with a bunch of dirty undergrads.

It's tough not to be able to talk to him much. This is, all in all, a pretty intense time of transition for all of us. I was grateful to have my mom in town for five days to keep me company and hang with Tor. My sister Christina and her husband Caleb also spent a couple of evenings with us, and it's just awesome to see Tor getting to know and love them. (Mom left Sunday, and Tor already missed her that night--at dinner, he kept saying, "Oma? Oma?")

On one of Lars's two days at home, we drove to San Francisco to meet up with Tor's Grandma and Grandpa, who were celebrating their thirty-third wedding anniversary with a weekend getaway. We checked  out the Exploratorium (making the obligatory pun), watched the America's Cup sailboats take off by the Golden Gate Bridge, hit up a cutting-edge playground, and ate a lovely dinner during which Tor washed his face with a tissue for about twenty minutes. Whatever works, right?

Just when he thought he understood physics...

Yep, this guy has been married for 33 years

Criss Angel's opening act

What hip urbanites swing on these days

The main concern with me working was to find Tor a great yet affordable day care situation. It seemed that nothing could ever be as wonderful as My First Steps in Minneapolis. Well, that's still true, but God provided again: while cruising Craigslist, we spotted a very reasonably priced Spanish-speaking care provider with an opening for a toddler a mile from our house. When we went over to interview her, it was obvious that Tor would fit in perfectly with the three other 19- to 25-month-olds. So two days a week while I teach, he's having a blast at Little Hugs day care with Miss Sonia (although that's been a little confusing, given his friendship with Sonia B. Lascu).

At home wherever there's agua

Standard-issue cot

Putting the lid on, teamwork style
Playing house

Drivin' that train

My main concern with Tor right now is his violent streak. His language is proliferating--I'd say he's learning at least three or four new words a week, and he regularly strings three together--and I thought that meant it'd be easier to reason with him. So since he hit an older girl at the park last week, and then he bit another kid at day care, I've been trying to help him understand it's not okay to hurt people. He's happy to talk about the incidents. In fact, he won't shut up about "Nina!" (whacks himself) "Ow!" (Nina is Spanish for "girl," and no, I can't figure out how to make the damn enye.) But he doesn't exhibit any remorse, and he seems especially reticent about actually saying "Sorry." We're going to the library tomorrow, so I'm going to hunt for books about dealing with these kinds of issues. And if anyone's got any advice, I'm open to suggestion.

Another, lesser but more nagging concern is that since we got to the new house, Tor has woken up between 4:00 and 4:30 a.m. every single morning. Lars's hypothesis is that because he (i.e., Tor) is still nursing in the morning, he's getting up out of anticipation. So I explained to him that tomorrow morning, we won't nurse, and whenever he gets up, we'll just start the day. We will see how that goes. Not well, I am predicting.

But the language thing is pretty cool. Last night we were reading Good Night, Gorilla, a weighty board tome in which the titular gorilla steals the zookeeper's keys and releases the other zoo animals. Tor pointed to the keys in the gorilla's hand and said, "Ooo-ooo [monkey] keys open door!"

Such moments are balm for me in my dead-of-night despair upon being awakened by a 26-pound banshee. That's all for now, because I'm off to bed.